Obama should help Iran move to the Seam

There are a number of states in the seam between the functioning core of the global economy of Europe and the Gap. These range from countries in the process of integration into Europe — like Ukraine, Georgia, and Turkey — old outposts in the Gap — like Israel — and small oil-based economies, such as Kuwait, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates. While the Iraq War of 2008 has been successful in rolling back Baathism and al Qaeda in Iraq, it has so far failed in its attempt to make Iraq an obviously good model for hte rest of the greatest middle east. Iraq, for all our efforts, is still in the Gap.

Fortunately, Barack Obama (who becomes our President this month) has an opportunity at an even greater prize: Iran.


Iran is more populous and culturally more developed in Iraq. It has a greater ability to project power, and hence to make piece. It is increasingly integrated with the economies of our friends (Azerbaijan, Turkey, India, China, and so on), and is useful in our containing rogue states like Russia:

From “Russia and Iran: Comrades in contradiction” (hat-tip to Tom Barnett):

Making the task even more labyrinthine is the fact that for many of those years, Iran was actively working against the Russia’s interests (or vice-versa) in one area, while in another area they worked together harmoniously. One example of this is the nexus of civil wars in Tajikistan and Afghanistan in the early 1990s. Tajikistan, the poorest of the former Soviet states, dissolved into chaos in 1992. Russia backed the establishment communists for the sake of stability, while Iran entered the fray by supporting the opposition, which it mistook to be an Islamic revolutionary movement.

In the new millennium Iran and Russia adjusted to the new American presence in the Middle East and Central Asia. For a few years, both countries turned away from each other and towards the US. In Afghanistan, neither put up any obstacles to scattering their old foes, the Taliban. Then in 2003 the US invaded Iraq, and although Iran approved of former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein’s ouster, the large American presence in another bordering country was too threatening to accept. Russia found itself at odds with America over oil contracts in Iraq, regretted its loss of prestige in the United Nations Security Council, and began to drift back towards Iran.

Friendship with Iran would do more than just bring geographical continuity to the Near-Eastern Seam. It would help cement the positions of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Turkmenistan, all of which are permanently’ Iran’s neighbors and presently in the Gap. It could bring security to Turkey, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, and the U.A.E., which are seam states near Iran. Economic investment in Iran would cement Europe’s relationships with the near-east, and providing a nuclear umbrella to the region would provide safety for Israel, as well.

Many of them instinctively reverted to the polarities of the old Cold-War paradigm and saw Russia threatening an ideological ally of the United States. More important for the long term, though, the projection of Russian strength into the Caucasus sent an implicit message to Iran about who the real power is in the region.

There is much to be done in the near-east. Moving those countries off of oil (and reducing the power of oil-rich rogue states like Russia) requires us to invest in batteries, biodiesal. hybrids, and other new technologies. We have to spread those technologies to new core powers like India and China, too.

But don’t forget the geopoltiical component. Iran is a useful friend in a critical neighborhood.

I hope President Obama makes it a priority to bring at first detente, and then build a strategic partnership, between the United States of America and the Islamic Republic of Iran.

16 thoughts on “Obama should help Iran move to the Seam”

  1. Apparently Dennis Ross (a skilled negotiator for America over the past 25 years) will be handling the Iran portfolio. Helping matters would be an assist from go-betweens in Turkey and Iraq who can help move these negotiations along. I do agree with Barnett that the war against Hamas may play into the hardliner’s hands for re-election purposes, which could complicate any efforts to reach even detente.

  2. The opportunity for a Nixon-to-China may be within Obama’s grasp, at some point, if the foundations are carefully laid.

    Getting rid of the current Iranian leadership would help.

    Fortunately, there are elections coming up.

    Even better would be the “non-kinetic kill” of the entire Mullah regime.

    But, one thing at a time.

  3. I don’t mean to sound hostile, but what makes you think the ruling Mullahs want to make nice with the West? They are the ones that hold the power in Iran. The ‘President” is down lower on the totem pole. What signals from Iran are you seeing that I am not?

  4. Well, here’s two:

    “Petraeus Says U.S., Iran Share Some Common Goals in Afghanistan ” [1]
    “‘Iran pledged Hezbollah won’t respond to Gaza op,’ says top Lebanese MP” [2]

    As fun as it was for some bloggers to announce that Admiral Fox Fallon’s departure signaled a US war against Iran, the reality on the ground keeps pushing close cooperation. Iran desires physical security; the US desires security against terrorist groups. Fortunately, anti-US terror groups tend to be anti-Iranian terror groups, and the US possesses the only military capable of seriously questioning Iran’s physical security.

    That’s the outline for a deal.

    Things are even better when you consider Iraq, where we share the same powerful major clients (Dawa, the Supreme Council, and the Kurdish List) and only diverge when it comes to support of marginal trouble-makers (the Awakening Councils in Anbar, what remains of the Madhi Army).

    The situation for Iran is not as desire as Maoist China’s was during the Nixon administration (which escalated to the point that an evacuation of government personnel from Beijing was seriously considered, and even begun), but then we won’t have to be as crazy here as we were then either (where George H.W. Bush passed US spy sattelite imagery to Deng Xiaoping and Zhou Enlai, in order to enable China to launch a successful nuclear first-strike against Soviet positions).

    [1] http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601103&sid=aMFkfCK2mw1Y&refer=us
    [2] http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1053014.html

  5. I don’t really see those signals.

    “Petraeus Says U.S., Iran Share Some Common Goals in Afghanistan ”

    That’s not an Iranian signal.

    “‘Iran pledged Hezbollah won’t respond to Gaza op,’ says top Lebanese MP”

    Hamas is also partially a Iranian proxy. Hezbollah is still rebuilding from their tangle with Israel. I don’t see it as a signal of possible us/Persian detente that they haven’t gotten into the fight (yet).

    Don’t get me wrong, all domains of US power should be brought to bear against and with Iran (carrots and sticks), but the Mullahs aren’t interested in playing nice with the US. They may back off for short term reasons, but their goals of an Iran regional Islamic superpower with global influence doesn’t mess with the US PoV of the world.

    I know we really disagree on this and there most likely isn’t a middle ground. I was never able to get behind your writing on why Sharia can be a good thing. Disagreement is okay though.

  6. PS,

    You’re right the what Petreaus says is an American signal.

    You are also that Hezbollah’s lack of involvemtn could becoming from weakness, as well. Still, considering the ‘street popularity’ of Hamas, it’s striking that Iran’s support seems limited to lame one-liners on meta-issues [1]. This from a guy who once talked about erasing Israel from the map!

    but their goals of an Iran regional Islamic superpower with global influence doesn’t mess with the US PoV of the world.

    How so?

    In the mid-east, the US is an offshore balancer that could be harmful or helpful. Iran may have a permanent conflict of interest with Saudi Arabia, but the US will never be a leader of Islamic thought nor interested in sovereign control of the Persian Gulf.

    I know we really disagree on this and there most likely isn’t a middle ground. I was never able to get behind your writing on why Sharia can be a good thing. Disagreement is okay though.

    Indeed, it is what makes blogging fun! 🙂

    [1] http://in.reuters.com/article/worldNews/idINIndia-37375620090110

  7. Dennis Ross (a skilled negotiator for America over the past 25 years)

    Ross will not leave Iran in peace (in pieces is more likely)
    Obama’s appointments make it increasingly clear that he meant what he said: an nuclear Iranian is unacceptable

  8. Unsavoury as it may be to bring this up Ross’ wikipedia entry states:-

    While not listed in his official biography, according to the “The Truth about Camp David” by Clayton Swisher, Ross co-founded the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC)-sponsored Washington Institute for Near East Policy in 1980s. [1]

    His chief of staff Rahm Emanuel ?

    His father, Benjamin M. Emanuel, a Jerusalem-born pediatrician, was a member of the Irgun…. The surname Emanuel (עמנואל), adopted by the family in honor of his father’s brother Emanuel Auerbach, killed in Jerusalem during a skirmish with Arabs, means God is with us.[…] Emanuel did not serve in the Israeli army, but was a civilian volunteer assisting the Israel Defense Forces for a short time during the 1991 Gulf War, repairing truck brakes in one of Israel’s northern bases with Sar-El.

    These key appointees will advise Obama to attack Iran unless it capitulates and abandons it’s nuclear program. I think Obama will end up ordering a massive airstrike on Iran.

  9. Definitely glad to know that Obama will be a friend of Israel.

    Having heard that we’re going to attack Iran any day now for the past several years, I’m skeptical.

  10. Lere:

    I think you have stumbled upon another diabolical plan by the Jews, Israelis, Neo-Cons, Neo-Neo-Cons, the lluminati, the Neo-Illuminati, The Real Illuminati, and the Burgermeister Meisterburger Group. Time to start preserving and protecting ye olde bodily fluids….

  11. I’ve had the “Jewish Question” debate many times and swore to never take part in it again. But, here goes……


    there is no denying the fact that the Israeli Right has a lot of influence in this country, but when it comes down to it, no matter how powerful the “Jewish Lobby” is, it still requires the “lobbied” to give in to their demands. So if you’re suspicious of our polices towards Israel, don’t look to the Jews, look to the non-Jews who occupy most of our government.

    Besides that, without Israel we wouldn’t have a reliable ally in the Middle East. We can park our ships in their waters or fly over their airspace and it only costs about 3 billion a year. Israel also potentially attracts much of the violence that may be directed at us or our interests in the region. IOW, Muslim extremists have limited resources and its easier to direct those resources towards a Nation-State in the Middle East compared to the CONUS or our interest in the region.

    So don’t worry too much about Jewish influence. I guarantee that they don’t wield as much power as you think they do. Beside that, why do you worry if we bomb Iran or not. If war bothers you, turn the TV and computer off. Or, watch something else. I sit next to a girl in a class at school who knows nothing about world events. When discussing the war in Iraq one day she said “wait, I though we were fighting in I-ran.” She also wondered why “we even have to have war” and asked “why can’t adults just; not fight?” I envied her total obliviousness.

    Anyway, my point is, if you’re bothered by the idea of us attacking Iran, I’m telling you it IS possible to tune it out of your life. There are lots of good TV shows you can watch on VH-1 like Bret Michael’s “Rock of Love.” Or “Bad Girls Club” on Oxygen. On MTV there’s “The City” or “Bromance.” These shows will help keep your mind off the Jews and on something more happy.

    Good Luck

  12. Obama breaks bread with William Kristol, David Brooks, and Charles Krauthammer

    The dinner is an indication of the spectrum of opinion Obama is taking cognizance of, it’s the same worldview shared by his appointees. It’s clear his retoric was just that, his anti-war support has been took.

    On the stump, he used to say things like: “I will bring this war to an end in 2009. So don’t be confused.” Now he says it might take a bit longer. To make matters worse, he has kept George Bush’s defence secretary, Robert Gates, in his job. “Not a single member of Obama’s foreign-policy [and] national-security team opposed the war,” fumes Katrina vanden Heuvel, the editor of the Nation, a lefty magazine, adding that Mr Gates is “a terrible pick”.
    Far from ending Mr Bush’s war on terror, Mr Obama plans to ramp it up in Afghanistan, albeit under a different label. When Israel started bombing Gaza, he barely protested[…] Some folks are outraged, too, by Mr Obama’s rumoured selection of Dennis Ross, a veteran of Bill Clinton’s administration, as his point man on Iran. Robert Naiman, an analyst at a group called Just Foreign Policy, thinks Mr Ross might “set the stage for war with Iran”.

  13. That Obama meeting with the Neoconservatives had two main purposes. First, it was to calm any doubts that Obama was dedicated to America’s actions in the Middle east. Despite what the Zombie left thought, Obama will not pull us out of the Middle East.

    The second purpose was to marginalize the social Conservatives. Guys like Kristol and Krauthammer are pretty much liberals; but who favor an aggressive foreign policy. So Obama probably told them that if they help him marginalize social conservatives, that he’ll give them a place at the table.

    I don’t expect people like Limbaugh to make it through 8 years of Obama. The purpose of making such a big deal out of that “Magic Negro” song was to single the start of the campaign against speech. Anyone who doesn’t toe the PC line is going to get shut down. The Neocon role is to add some “right wing” support in the war against speech.

    Free speech will have to be outlawed if America is to become “post racial.”

  14. Obama is being smart, in recognizing his naivty in Washington politics, and trying to build as many relationships as he can.

    Whether people become alies, case-by-case comrades in political arms, or merely people with warm enough relations not to through up friction all the time, Obama is making his job easier on himself.

    He throws old friend under the bus, and makes new, better friends. It’s a kind of wisdom.

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